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Monday, June 08, 2009
Lectionary Scriptures: I Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24, Psalm 20:1-9 or Psalm 92:1-5, II Corinthians 5:6-17, Mark 4:26-34 This week’s readings offer a rich selection, with the possibility of at least two themes. Selected verses leapt out at me in the first reading, so I’m mostly going to make quick comments on the inspiration of those specific verses rather than make an in-depth examination of the larger passages. 1 Samuel 16:7—“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” It is part of God’s instruction to Samuel as Samuel undertakes his God-give task of anointing a new king—a task, by the way, that he wasn’t too happy with initially. Not even God was very happy about allowing the people to have a king. It would only bring war and taxes, he said—and it did. But that’s another story. We easily chase after the popularity of beauty and physical attractiveness. The challenge to us is to see as the Lord sees, to look beyond outward appearances, the things that attract our senses and appetites, and see the true being, the true value, of the realities and people around us. It’s a little like the “born from above” of last week, being born into a new way of looking at and evaluating the things that matter in life. Psalm 20:7 overlaps, in that it also challenges our easy acquiescence to the powerful and the things of power. “Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.” Chariots and horses—the instruments of war and symbols of position. Enough said! II Corinthians, chapter five, again picks up the theme of seeing in a new way. It begins with walking “by faith, not by sight,” (vs. 7) and moves on to a comparison of “outward appearance” and what is “in the heart.” (Vs. 12) It comes to conclusion, in verse 17: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view . . . if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” It is a call to see everything through new eyes, through the eyes of Christ. When we see things that way we realize what great possibility and potential God has intended for us and this world. We are called to be builders of the new, not those who cling on to the old myths and stereotypes and priorities and tunnel-vision that limits and stifles the way ahead. Going back to Ezekiel, we find the second theme, that of the flourishing growth which springs from God’s love. In Ezekiel 17:22-24, it is like a sprig which grows large enough to hold “every kind of bird.” “In the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind.” The image is repeated in the Gospel lesson in Mark 4:31-32. Jesus speaks of a mustard seed, the smallest of all sees, that grows “so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” We’re loving the presence of the birds outside our lofty windows. We live in the midst of the branches of tall trees, inhabited by a rich variety of birds—mourning doves, jays, sparrows, finches, flickers, starlings, robins, and many we haven’t identified yet. Sometimes they come right up onto our decks, dig around in our potted plants, even appear to sit outside the window watching us, trying to start of conversation. The rich variety of birds in the tree in a sign of God’s peaceable kingdom, of the pentecostal reality of which Pastor Rick spoke last Sunday. In Psalm 92:12, it is God’s people who “flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” The part I like here is that “in old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap.” We’ve moved from those who dwell in the tree to being the tree, and the point is that when God is giving the growth, our lives continue to bear fruit. It is the nature of God’s Love, planted in human lives, to take root and grow and bear fruit. Mark 4:26-34 gives us a couple of parables of growth, and there are others in the Gospels. The most basic point of all the growth parables is that when the seed is planted, some of it will grow. Whatever seeds of kindness we plant, whatever efforts we make toward peace and justice, whenever we reach out in love, there will be some fruit from that effort. It may not always seem like it. It may not come quickly. We may never even see the results, but, with the eyes of faith, we believe and declare that it will grow, in God’s good time. When we let God love us and let that love use us, the possibilities of growth are beyond our imagining, so great that we can’t see them unless we see things through new eyes.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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